Over the Bank Holiday weekend, we joined 3,000 others in tackling the London 2 Brighton Challenge. We’d heard that it would be gruelling, but we fancied a challenge and a chance to try out our new Event maps. After leaving home at 5am to get to the start point in Richmond, we set off on our 56km challenge at 8am.
The first 10km or so was lovely. We walked beside the Thames and enjoyed the scenery, including canal boats, canoeists, and houses on the waterfront. It was so lively that the time flew by.
As a brief stop at the first checkpoint to check out the empty first aid tent and array of sweets and chocolate on offer for participants, we refuelled and continued our journey. For the next few kilometres, we walked through a residential but hilly area, so though we were beginning to feel some aches, the twisting and turning through the streets meant that the time passed by quickly.
A selection of cakes and fruit awaited us at Oaks Park, but it wasn’t all good news, as this was the point at which Rick’s hot spots came in to play. Even so, we decided not to go in to the first aid tent… this time…
We braced ourselves for the next 16km section of the challenge, and were met with heavy rain. This was the first time Rick was able to make use of his umbrella (though we weren’t sure that any of the other 3,000 participants were carrying an umbrella, it would later be used as a walking stick, for measuring the depths of puddles and for clearing the path of stinging nettles and as a barrier to stop Tara overtaking!) Next, we made our way up and over rolling hills through the North Downs towards the 40km checkpoint. Just outside Bletchingley, we came across a muddy hill that was so slippery that we decided to run down it to avoid falling over. At this point, Andy let us know that he had ‘hit the wall’, but we powered on.
We weren’t the only ones beginning to struggle though, and a number of others were asking us how far the checkpoint was. Luckily, our Event Map helped us show them where it was, though given that we had ‘You’d be lost without OS’ on the back of our t-shirts, it may have been a bit embarrassing if we didn’t know the way! This was just one of many good chats that the challenge enables you to have with fellow participants. In most chats, we slipped in a question about what time they started (so we could find out if we’d overtaken them or not!), it was a great way to get to know people and their reasons for taking on the challenge, and a good way to pass the time!
We all agreed, the 40km checkpoint at New Henhaw couldn’t come quick enough. Rick’s feet were in big trouble, so we all finally went to the medical centre to discover blisters and very few empty chairs. There weren’t so many smiley faces at this checkpoint, as we all began to realise that this wasn’t just a walk, it was a real challenge. We needed calories, and luckily we were able to stock up on chocolate bars and crisps, meaning that our intended 20 minute stop soon became 45. Sitting down was great though, and the thought of getting up was a struggle, but the thought of the great cause we were raising money for and the generosity of the people who contributed to help us gave us the energy to take on another 16km.
As we carried on our adventure (while trying to get Tara to slow down), Rick started to say ‘man down, man down’ as we walked past and checked in on participants who were hobbling or sat or led down. We continued through country lanes to reach the 50km point, where many people were taking pictures as we turned the corner. Like others, we were soaked, covered in mud and decided to take a quick pit stop. At this point, Rick mentioned that his ‘guaranteed no blisters’ socks would be going back to the shop for a refund.
We had 6km to go, and Andy was suffering shin splints from walking on the road and mud. As we slowed down, Tara decided to leave us behind, determining that we were walking so slowly it was painful! We were now being overtaken in waves and had to move to the side to let them all through (by now, we’d stopped asking people what time they started!)
As we approached the end, we could hear the announcers, though it was another (long) 1km or so to the finish line. We entered Tulley’s Farm to crowds cheering us over the line, which was really great. We finished at just gone half past 8, giving us a time of around 12 hours and 30 mins.
Awaiting us at the finish, to our delight, was hot food. We thought finishing was going to feel brilliant, but admitted that we were so knackered that it wasn’t as great as we hoped (though it felt much better the day after!)
We then got the shuttle bus and train back to Richmond, at which point we seriously considered getting a taxi rather than walking for three or four minutes to Old Deer Car Park.
We were going to go for a pint, but decided bath and bed was a better option. When we came back to work on Tuesday, we talked about whether we’d do it again. All three of us said ‘yes’ without hesitation.
Despite us thinking before that it was just a walk, it was a really tough challenge. But we loved it and we’d do it again – the organisation was brilliant, the people cheering you in were fantastic and the food, drink and medical facilities were just what we needed. We met some really interesting people and raised over £500 for The Alzheimer’s Society.
We kept on track throughout the race with our OS London 2 Brighton Event Map. If you’ve used it, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the new map, so if you have a few moments to spare, please take our survey here.